Sooty Shearwater – records

Ardenna grisea – ADERYN –DRYCIN DU – Regular autumn passage migrant. Has not been recorded in February, June or November.

Earlier records are summarised in Sooty Shearwater 1994 and Sooty Shearwater 2006

Monthly totals of birds passing Strumble Head 2007-2020:

YearAugustSeptemberOctoberMax day count
200722506 on 24 September
20082462732 on 2 September
200945192424 on 3 October
2010161918 on 15 September
201114260287 on 7 September
76 on 5 September
20122188247 on 24 September
20134115283 on 16 September
201416336 on 30 August
2015511 
2016255626 on 4 September
201761115 on 11 September
2018251210 on 24 August
2019222 on 1 September
2020133

Data from the Pembrokeshire Bird Reports and Adrian Rogers with other Strumblers.

Additional notes from Bird Reports:

2007 – Only non-Strumble record was of a single off Newgale on 18 Nov

2009 – Elsewhere 12 from a Sea Trust Pelagic on 23 Sept, 10 near Grassholm 25 Sept. Singles off the Deer Park on 18th Aug, off St. Govan’s Head 4th & 6th Sept and off Ramsey Island on 1st Nov (6th island record) which coincidentally was the last date that one was reported from Strumble Head where a total of 89 passed between 17th Aug and 1st Nov.

2010 – Only one non-Strumble record, from Grassholm on 23 Aug.

2011 – First recorded at Strumble Head on 17 July. The total of 277 from Strumble Head is the 3rd highest yearly total ever recorded.

2012 – Passed Strumble Head on a total of 20 dates between 18 Aug & 3 Oct, max 47 on 24 Sept. A single bird was recorded past Skokholm on 16 Sept.

2013 – A total of 123 passed Strumble Head on 14 dates between 14 Aug & 3 Nov. Elsewhere five were seen from Ramsey Island on 16 Sept and one on 3 Nov, two off St.Davids Head on 24 Oct and singles off Skokholm on 4 Aug and off Grassholm on 6 Aug.

Skokholm – One east past the Lighthouse on 4th August, a day which saw over 60,000 Manx Shearwaters pass in moderate southerly winds, was the only record of the year (RDB). This perhaps reflects the unseasonably calm or predominantly easterly autumn period and a corresponding absence of observers at the seawatching hide. However it should also be noted that two days of strong southwesterlies followed by northerlies in mid-September, which saw good numbers to our north, failed to produce any Skokholm records.

2014 – Quite a poor year at Strumble Head, 22 birds in total recorded on only nine days. September is usually the peak month for “Sooties” but the wind conditions this year were very poor in sea-watching terms, hence the low totals. Single Birds were seen from Skomer on 30 July, the Fishguard to Rosslare Ferry on 20 Aug, from the Cartlett Lady on a Seatrust Survey on 4 Sept and from Ramsey on 21 Oct.

2015 – Another poor year at Strumble Head, starting with a single on 19th July. Skokholm had a single bird on 12 Aug and one off Ramsey on 22nd Oct.

2016 – At Strumble Head a much better showing in 2016 with a total of 81 birds on 15 dates between 4th Aug & 29th Sept, max 26 on 4th Sept. Skokholm had single birds on 21st Aug & 4th Sept with three on 3rd Sept. Off Skomer, seven on 4th Sept and a single on 16th Oct. One off Ramsey on 20th Aug.

2017 – A poor year with only 18 birds recorded at Strumble Head, maximum five on 11th Sept. One off Skomer on 27th Aug and singles off Skokholm on 27th July and 28th Aug

2018 – Singles off Skokholm: 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th Aug and 8th Sept. A total of 37 logged passing Strumble Head: three on 16th Aug, 10 on 24th Aug, eight on 27th and five on 21 Sept.

2019 – Total of four logged passing Strumble Head, singles 18 & 31 Aug and two 1 Sept. Off Skokholm: singles on 10, 16,18, 22, 25, 29 & 30 Aug

2020

Very few recorded passing Strumble Head: a total of 13 in August, max seven on 23rd, and in September, singles on the 5th, 24th & 25th. The only other records were: off Skokholm 31 July 16 Aug, two on 21st and one 24 Aug, two off Skomer 3 Aug and a single on 25 Aug, one off Ramsey 26 Aug and two on 25 Sept.

Records extracted from the Pembrokeshire Bird Reports, which may contain more detail than shown here.

Photo credit: dfaulder, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

More about the Sooty Shearwater in Pembrokeshire

Sooty Shearwater – 2006

Puffinus griseus – ADERYN –DRYCIN DU – Regular autumn passage migrant. Has not been recorded in February, June or November.

The Sooty Shearwater breeds in New Zealand and its sub Antarctic islands, south west South America, the Falkland Islands, the South Atlantic islands and Australia. They spend winter in temperate sea areas in the North Pacific and North Atlantic. In the Atlantic they travel off the eastern seaboard of the Americas to the Newfoundland area, returning south off the western seaboard of Europe.

The Sooty Shearwater was first recorded in Pembrokeshire on the 9th September 1931 when R. M. Lockley saw one from a boat between Skokholm and Grassholm. Then Lockley et al (1949) stated “Seen fairly regularly during the early part of September off Skokholm.” 

A total of 41 were recorded between 1957 and 1978, most being logged at Skokholm but some were also noted off Skomer, South Bishop, from boats visiting Grassholm and the Smalls, from the Fishguard to Rosslare ferry and off Strumble Head.

They continued to be recorded on occasions at these places and also off St David’s Head, Ramsey, St Govan’s Head, from the Pembroke to Rosslare ferry, off the Swansea to Cork ferry and from small vessels visiting the Celtic Deep area. One to five birds per day were involved apart from 20 at the Celtic Deep on the 15th September 2002. However, much larger numbers were logged with greater regularity at Strumble Head between 1980 and 2006.

Overall annual pattern 1980-2006 at Strumble Head

(Expressed as the mean number of birds per six day periods. Values were adjusted for the seven day periods at the end of Aug and Oct by dividing their totals by seven and multiplying by six before calculating the mean.)

Passage has been recorded from the 3rd July to the 19th November, peaking in August and September but some sightings have been made outside this period. They were single birds at the Smalls on 22nd March 1984, at Whitesands Bay on the 28th December 2000, at Strumble Head on the 2nd January 1988, 3rd May 1982, 23rd December 1983 and 27th December 2006.

Analysis

The number of Sooty Shearwaters seen has been dependent on the nature of the weather systems occurring during the peak passage time, August to September. A trickle of small numbers were recorded during light to moderate winds, larger numbers in more turbulent weather.

During the 1980’s Atlantic depressions moving south-west to north-east with their centres passing over Northern Ireland and Scotland were prevalent. Locally these produced south-west gales which veered north-west before moderating when the system progressed further to the north-east.

The south-west component is thought to have displaced shearwaters from the Western Approaches into the Irish Sea. They were able to make their way back southwards when the wind wore around to the north-west, many of them passing close in to the north Pembrokeshire shore in the process. The largest counts of Sooty Shearwaters at Strumble Head were made during these conditions, i.e. 237 on the 1st September 1985 and 397 on the 3rd September 1983.

The depressions that occurred in August and September between 1990 and 2006 tracked further south with their centres over Pembrokeshire or further to the south. These systems did not produce the south-west going north-west winds locally, indeed they often produced easterly winds which did not prove favourable for placing Sooty Shearwaters in Pembrokeshire waters.

They did occasionally produce strong north winds blowing through the North Channel and down the Irish Sea, which pushed some Sooty Shearwaters close to the north Pembrokeshire shores but in lesser numbers than during the 1980’s. Counts between 11 and 35 were made on peak days, the maximum being 42 on the 14th September 2004.

Breakdown of Strumble Head totals

1980 – 891736
1990 – 99645
2000 – 06474

Graham Rees. Pembrokeshire County Bird Recorder 1981-2007

LOCKLEY. R. M, INGRAM. C. S. and SALMON. H. M.1949. The birds of Pembrokeshire, West Wales Field Society.

More about the Sooty Shearwater in Pembrokeshire

Sooty Shearwater – 1994

Puffinus griseus – ADERYN –DRYCIN DU – Regular autumn passage migrant. Has not been recorded in February, June or November.

This bird was not mentioned by Mathew (1894), but Lockley et al. (1949) regarded it as fairly regular during the early part of September, and Saunders (1976) assessed it as annual in its occurrence off the coast in extremely small numbers. The records for the 1950s to 1970s are predominantly from the Skokholm area and average three birds per autumn, with a maximum of six in 1970 and 1971.

Regular and frequent observation from Strumble Head during the 1980s has shown that far more than this pass southwards each autumn, an average of 81 per year being seen between 1983 and 1987. This figure excludes sharp daily peaks in passage occurring after south­west gales, when Sooty Shearwaters were presumably diverted downwind into Cardigan Bay but beat back out to sea in procession when the wind veered to north of west. Greater numbers pass Strumble Head in such circumstances, 237 on 1 September 1985 and 397 on 3 September 1983 being the largest counts. The passage period extends between 3 July and 30 October, but single birds have been seen off the Smalls on 22 March 1984 and off Strumble Head on 2 January 1988, 3 May 1982 and 23 December 1983, suggesting a few remain to winter in the northern hemisphere.

Donovan J.W. & Rees G.H, 1994, Birds of Pembrokeshire

SAUNDERS, D.R. 1976. A brief guide to the birds of Pembrokeshire. Five Arches Press.

More about the Sooty Shearwater in Pembrokeshire

Sooty Shearwater

Puffinus griseus – ADERYN –DRYCIN DU – Regular autumn passage migrant. Has not been recorded in February, June or November.

Sooty Shearwater – records

All the Sooty Shearwater records extracted from the Pembrokeshire Bird Reports, and a table summarising the passage at Strumble Head since 2007.

Sooty Shearwater – 1994

Puffinus griseus – ADERYN –DRYCIN DU – Regular autumn passage migrant. Has not been recorded in February, June or November. This bird was not mentioned by Mathew (1894), but Lockley et al. (1949) regarded it as fairly regular during the early part of September, and Saunders (1976) assessed it as annual in its occurrence off the coast in […]